Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Government not dealing with the wider problems facing the economy

9 July, 2008

Speaking in the Dail this afternoon Sinn Féin Economic Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD called on the government to outline the measures that it will introduce in the short-term to stabilise the economy and to put forward a medium term recovery plan which includes steps to regain competitiveness and measures to retrain and up-skill of workers.

Speaking from the Dáil chamber Deputy Morgan said:

"For all the spin of yesterday, the reality is that the government is not dealing with the wider problems facing the economy. Instead what we have is a set of proposals to deal in a very limited way with a gapping hole in the public finances.

"Clearly we will have to wait until December's budget to see how exactly the government intends to deal with the revenue shortfall, though it is becoming clear that serious cuts in public services are looming.

"Cut backs in public services will only result in the period of recession we are now experiencing being prolonged. Recovery demands that investment in key economic and social infrastructure and services be maintained.

"Measures announced yesterday testify that wastage and inefficiencies have been normal practice to date. Only now is the Government proposing to deal with tribunal costs, project cost overruns and the absence of fixed price contracts. Value for money must always be central when public money is being spent.

"A huge amount of public money was misspent on tax breaks for the wealthy. While many people became obnoxiously wealthy on the back of tax breaks which had little social or economic value, the economy's over-dependence on the property sector was further fuelled. The money wasted over the last decade should and could have been used to deliver the necessary improvements in public infrastructure. That we failed to address the substantial deficiencies in public infrastructure - in school buildings, hospitals, social housing and public transport - during the most sustained period of economic buoyancy is the disgraceful legacy of Fianna Fáil.

"Over the last decade the government cut income and other taxes to levels which are not sustainable allowing the Exchequer to become precariously over dependent on revenue related to construction and consumption. This is the reason that this state has seen a significant decline in public finances. It ignored warnings that revenue from construction and consumption was wide open to fluctuation. The problem with the approach of the Government to the public finances now is that it is not based on an addressing the root cause of the dramatic contraction in tax revenues.

"The government is approaching the current economic and fiscal problems in a short-sighted manner. In dealing with the shortfall in the public finances it appears that the only option under consideration is cut-backs in public spending. Assertions that the most vulnerable will not bare the brunt of such cuts are not credible. Experience tells us otherwise.

"While the Government is saying that recruitment freezes and pay roll reductions will not affect frontline services this has not been the experience in the past. There is mounting evidence across many services including health and education of cuts that are already beginning to hurt the most vulnerable.

"The Government is spinning that these cuts do not affect the Health Services pretends that it is safeguarding patient care in its cutbacks. This is totally false. Long before yesterday's announcement patient care was being affected by cuts. The HSE imposed major cuts from last September with its ban on recruitment putting patients and front-line workers in our public health services under further pressure. The Labour Court ruled that the HSE was in breach of Towards 2016 and the EU Information and Consultation Directive in the manner in which it introduced, without prior consultation, those staffing restrictions in September 2007.

"IMPACT trade union points out that the €38 million budget cut for 'new developments,' announced by Health Minister Mary Harney means that planned service expansions in areas like disability, mental health, and care for the elderly have been put on ice. With further cutbacks threatened next year these badly needed services are effectively cancelled indefinitely.

At a meeting on Friday, 11th April 2008, the Irish Nurse Organisation and other health service unions were advised by the HSE that a range of measures were being considered including:

ï‚· closure of wards;
ï‚· reconfiguration of seven day wards to five day;
ï‚· the closure of A&E departments that do not have a consultant;
ï‚· suspension of primary care developments; and

ï‚· limit on expenditure on statutory schemes e.g. drug refund/long-term illness.

"These cuts represent the gross mismanagement of our public health service by a Government which prefers to subsidise the private healthcare business.

"What we need is for the Government to outline the measures that it will introduce in the short-term to stabilise the economy and to put forward a medium term recovery plan which includes steps to regain competitiveness and measures to retrain and up-skill of workers. We also need to start planning now for a longer term re-orientation of the economy in order to ensure that in future the economy is built on solid foundations and that future economic prosperity is used to eliminate economic inequalities." ENDS

For further information please contact:

Sinéad Ní Bhroin 087 9266764

Sinn Féin Leinster House Press Office 01 6184276

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